The name of Avalon Hill is a respected one in the games world. The producers of wargames such as Tactics II, Stalingrad and Waterloo, and of other types like the Strategy range (Baseball, Business, etc.) have built up a well-deserved reputation over the years for carefully thought out and entertaining simulations. Let us hope, then, that the rather sad let-down of Beat Inflation’ is merely a temporary abberation, the sort of lapse that occurs once even in the best of circles and then is quietly forgotten.
The action of the game takes place on a board marked with a large dollar sign, which constitutes the playing area and is divided into thirty-five spaces — twenty-three along the ‘S’, nine along each of the two uprights, six spaces being common to both ‘S’ and uprights at their points of intersection. Each player is represented by a token which has the run of the complete $ sign, and there is a further suitably coloured black token which does a continual clockwise round of the two uprights, representing the Inflation Rate.
The $ sign is divided into three inflation zones — low, medium and high proceeding up the board. In the low zone real assets can be bought cheaply while paper assets can be sold at top prices, while at the top of the board exactly the opposite situation occurs ('Beat Inflation’ is nothing if not symmetrical!). The middle zone is a sort of halfway house between these two rather fanciful extremes.
The object of the game is to switch in and out of real and paper assets until one becomes a millionaire. Each player starts with no capital but five credit markers (unbelievably flimsy little bits of white cardboard about 1/2-inch square — for shame, Avalon Hill!), and the primary objective is to accumulate more of these by crossing one’s token over credit rating spaces, each of which entitles one to a further marker. These may be exchanged in batches of ten for bank loans of $100,000 with which one can start operations. To buy assets (and eventually, of course, to sell them) players have to get into the appropriate inflation zone as determined at any time by the Inflation Rate token. Once that is achieved, and the relative assets bought, players have the option of classifying their purchases as either low-, medium- or high-risk assets, the point of this being that the higher the risk the better the sale price but the harder they are to dispose of. True odds have here been sacrificed to the interests of symmetry, making it far more attractive to opt for high- than for low- or medium- risk — a very bad fault in a game which presumably aims at a reasonably numerate clientele.
Movement of the pieces constitutes the chief interest and strategy of the game. Each round of play is governed by the throw of two dice, the lower of which is applied to the Inflation Rate token for its journey round the cross-bars. Each player may then move his own token in any direction the number of spaces corresponding to either die or their total, with the added complication that all other tokens act as blocks or buffers with a bounce-back effect.
Thus the attainment of one’s chosen inflation zone (and the blocking of other players withal) can constitute an interesting strategic exercise. It is just a pity that at the end of the day the rest of it hardly makes the attainment worthwhile.